Germany and Italy joined Britain on Friday in banning most travel from South Africa as governments fight to prevent the spread of a new variant of covid-19 with a large number of mutations.
As a sign of the growing alarm, the European Union separately proposed banning travel from southern Africa.
The EU’s executive branch “will propose, in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop flights from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529”, tweeted EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen on Friday.
Germany’s new travel restrictions, from Friday night, will affect South Africa and “probably neighboring nations”, said German Health Minister Jens Spahn, with only German citizens allowed in.
They must be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival even if they are vaccinated.
“The last thing we need now is an introduced new variant that causes even more problems,” said Spahn, with Germany in the grip of a violent fourth wave of the pandemic.
In Rome, the government announced on Friday that it has banned entry for those who have been to South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia or Eswatini for the past two weeks.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said researchers were studying the new variant B.1.1.529, “and in the meantime we will follow the path of maximum caution”.
The UK announced that all flights from South Africa and its neighbors would be banned from 1200 GMT on Friday.
South Africa sharply condemned Britain’s decision.
“While South Africa respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautions to protect their citizens, Britain’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering Britain seems hasty as even the World Health Organization cannot yet afford the next step,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. statement.